Samsung recently unleashed the bigger, badder, more rugged version of its flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S4. It’s IP67-certified, and features a redesigned body along with a robust spec sheet worthy of the Galaxy name. Let’s check it out and see how it performs, and find out whether or not it’s worth your money.
There was one aim with the Active, and that was to make a top-of-the-line, rugged phone—something that can withstand much-harsher conditions compared to the stuff the standard S4 could take. It’s waterproof and dust-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about your precious mobile phone too much the next time you leave it in your pants pocket on laundry day, or when you take it out to the beach.
The main thing with the S4 Active is that you don’t have to purchase a third-party cover or case to protect it—in a way, the Active is thinner by itself than a normal S4 with armor. There’s a bit more in terms of the bezels on the device, but who notices bezel thickness these days, anyway? (Well, some of us; but that’s not the point.)
It isn’t quite as lovely as the equally rugged Sony Xperia Z, but at least the exterior is different enough from the S4 to make it more appealing in some ways, instead of just a follow-up on the design of the Galaxy S III. Many will surely prefer the finish on the S4 Active compared to the standard plastic ‘polycarbonate’ fare from recent Galaxy models; and the colors will definitely add to the Active’s appeal.
Beneath all that toughness and inside all the seals, there’s a beast of a smartphone that’s more than capable of filling in as your daily driver. It comes with a 1.9GHz quad-core Krait 300 processor, backed by an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. There are 16 gigs of internal storage, and of course there’s the expandable storage that’s up to 64GB via the microSD card slot. The phone runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box and has all the standard connectivity options, including LTE.
Those are indeed some pretty nice details on the spec sheet, and all these combine to make the Galaxy S4 Active a very good option if you’re after a phone that can double as a business phone and a gadget for even your most extreme getaways.
For Samsung, it would be foolish to simply release a rugged version of the S4 without cutting back on some of the features. After all, the S4 was released only a few months ago, and there’s no need to put a dent on the stellar sales figures the flagship is enjoying so far.
Among the primary differences between the S4 and its Active variant is the screen: both handsets enjoy full HD, 5-inch screens, but the former makes use of Super AMOLED—which has arguably been the biggest strength of the S III and the S4—while the latter has a simple TFT LCD panel.
Another aspect where the Active gives in to its less-rugged counterpart is the camera. The S4 is equipped with a 13 megapixel snapper, while the Active has a downgraded 8MP unit version. It performs almost as well as the camera of the S III (which is also an 8MP cam), though, and that should be more than enough for most people.
Those aren’t deal-breakers as far as compromises go, so we expect the S4 Active to still sell well enough. We’ve seen the considerable demand for the likes of the Xperia Z and the Nokia 105, so the Active should provide enough goodies to warrant careful consideration from buyers who are into rugged yet high-performance phones.
If the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is going to succeed, it has to get over the hurdle that is the Xperia Z, which is a true-blue flagship phone that happens to have IP67 certification bundled with a beautiful design and solid specs. The Active is a bit of a downgraded S4 with ruggedness thrown into the mix.